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Mastering the Art of Favor-Asking: Guidelines for Effective Requests

Guidelines for Good vs. Bad Favors

Asking for a favor can be intimidating, whether you’re reaching out to a CEO to review your resume or networking for new opportunities.

However, it’s important to remember that not all favors are created equal. In fact, there are certain characteristics that differentiate a good favor from a bad one.

Characteristics of a Bad Favor

One of the primary characteristics of a bad favor is when it lacks specific information. For instance, if you were to ask a CEO to “take a look at my resume,” this is an overly vague request that may not yield usable feedback.

Instead, try to focus your ask on one particular issue, such as “Would you mind reviewing the formatting of my resume and offering some suggestions on how to improve it?”

Another mark of a bad favor is when it can be easily found through a Google search. For example, if you were to email someone in search of open jobs within a specific company, it’s likely that you could have discovered this information yourself with some minimal research.

Asking for someone’s time or effort in something that could be learned independently reflects poorly on both parties. Finally, a bad favor is more likely to be perceived as such if it takes up too much of someone’s time.

If your favor involves a great deal of work, it’s essential to acknowledge the effort that will be required and to offer some sort of compensation or gesture of appreciation.

Characteristics of a Good Favor

Conversely, a good favor is characterized by specificity. A specific, well-defined request is more likely to yield a useful result.

Consider the difference between asking someone to “pick your brain about finance” and asking “could you offer some insight into the current trends in real estate finance? I’d love to hear your perspective on this industry.”

A good favor is also one that isn’t simply Googleable.

The point is to tap into someone’s specific knowledge or expertise, rather than asking for information that can be found on the internet. Good favors ask the right person, rather than simply wasting someone’s time.

Lastly, a good favor is one that is short in length, both in the initial request and in follow-up communications. Short requests put less pressure on the person who is being asked, allowing them to reply in an equally brief manner.

This can be key to keep the conversation going and not discourage the person who is helping, especially if they are very busy.

Tailoring Your Ask

Tailoring your ask to the individual you are approaching can be tricky. However, keeping these three elements in mind will help you to make a more purposeful, effective request.

Specificity in Your Ask

When you’re trying to get your foot in the door or make a connection with someone in a particular industry, you may be tempted to reach out with a broad request. However, keep in mind that vague requests don’t provide a strong incentive for someone to respond to you.

Broad requests also force the person you’re contacting to do the work of figuring out what you’re looking for, which is not the best way to begin a professional relationship. So be specific about what you want.

For example, if you’re trying to break into the finance industry and you’re looking to make connections, consider emailing a specific person in the company you’re interested in. Offer upfront the reason why you are reaching out and the specific information you are seeking.

This way, you’re not wasting anyone’s time with an unfocused or woolly-headed litany of questions.

Avoiding Googleable Questions

As mentioned earlier in the article, a good ask is one that isn’t too easy to Google. This way, the person you’re approaching knows that you value their expertise, which he or she has gained through hard work and experience.

The way you frame your question also demonstrates that you’re aware of this and appreciate the other person’s time. For instance, suppose you’re emailing someone about open positions within a particular company.

This information is easily accessible, so a more targeted and appropriate ask could be: “I noticed that your company is expanding into new markets. Can you talk more in depth about the qualities and skills that candidates need to possess to succeed in your organization?

Having worked in a sister industry, I am interested in this area and would love to hear your thoughts.”

Keeping Your Request Short

The final and perhaps most crucial element is to keep your request short in length. Busy professionals receive a lot of emails and requests; the more concise and thoughtful your request is, the better your chances of getting a response.

When crafting your email, make sure to get to the point quickly without any superfluous wording. Avoid any unnecessary background information that might make the email longer than it needs to be.

A good template might be: “Hello, My name is … and I would love the opportunity to chat with you.

Would you be able to chat via phone for 15 minutes? Here is what I would like to discuss; if that sounds good, let me know the time and number that work best for you.”

In conclusion, asking for a favor can be nerve-wracking but follow these guidelines to help make your request more efficient and relevant.

Specific asks that avoid Googleable research and maintaining a short request/body length is key to getting responses and making meaningful connections.

Meeting In-Person

There are times when the best way to make a connection or network with someone is to meet in person. However, it’s important to be mindful of the other person’s schedule and to approach the meeting with the right attitude.

Being Mindful of Their Schedule

When you’re requesting a meeting, be mindful of the other person’s schedule. It’s up to you to work around their busy schedule to find a mutually convenient time, rather than expecting them to bend over backwards to accommodate you.

This can be especially important if the other person has to travel to meet you. If someone is taking the time to visit you or is spending their time traveling to meet with you, you should show your appreciation by arriving on time and avoiding any last-minute cancellations unless absolutely necessary.

Remember, people have busy schedules and their time is valuable, so make sure you respect it.

Paying for Them

If you are meeting someone in person, it’s important to consider paying for them or at least for their coffee or meal. This is a small gesture that can show the other person that you appreciate their time and are willing to invest in your relationship.

Place emphasis on the fact that you would rather conduct business or simply meet over a meal rather than over email or a call. This will help establish a more human connection and show them that you truly value them as individuals.

If you’re not sure how to approach this issue, just mention it in your invitation email. You can say something like, “Would you be open to getting together for lunch one day next week?

I would be honored to treat you to a meal.”

Adding a Gift

While not necessary, adding a gift to your meeting or encounter can be a great way to show your appreciation and to make the person feel valued.

Importance of Giving Back

People who help others want to know that their efforts are appreciated. A gift is an excellent way to show them that you value their time and effort and that you appreciate what they’ve done for you.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive or grand, but they should be thoughtful and reflect your gratitude. Of course, remember that the nature of your gift will reflect your level of relationship or how long you have known the other person.

Examples of Gift Giving

There are lots of ways to offer someone a thoughtful gift, even if you don’t know them very well. Here are some examples:

Compliment – take the time to write out a heartfelt message about how that person has impacted your life or offer specific examples about what you admire in them.

Recommendation – offer to write a recommendation on their LinkedIn profile or their website that highlights their strengths and achievements.- offer to connect people who may benefit from meeting each other. Introduce them to one another over email and give a bit of context on each person’s background.

This can be a great way to help people expand their networks and make meaningful connections. In conclusion, meeting someone in person can be a great way to establish a connection and form relationships that could prove beneficial.

Be mindful of their schedule, offer to pay for their coffee or meal, and consider offering a thoughtful gift to show your appreciation for their investment in you. These small gestures can go a long way in strengthening the connection between two people.

Real-Life Examples

To put the aforementioned guidelines into practice, let’s take a look at a few real-life examples of unique favor requests and how those requests aligned with specific guidelines.

Unique Favor Requests

One unique favor request could be asking someone for a birthday shout-out on social media. This request is interesting because it’s incredibly specific and potentially requires the person to go a little bit out of their way.

It also highlights the importance of communication and staying in touch with others in a digital age. Making a personalized request like this shows that you value the person’s time while demonstrating that you’ve put thought into the ask, making it specific and non-Googleable.

Another example could be asking someone for an informational interview. This request stands out because it also highlights your interest in a particular industry or company, and demonstrates that you’re willing to put in the effort to build a career in that space.

The ability to show the right amount of focus makes the request worth asking, and a well-crafted message can make it easy for someone to say yes.

Following the Guidelines

Having a framework to compose diverse and personalized requests is fundamental in making the ask worthwhile. When we go back to the birthday shout-out example mentioned earlier, we can parse it out to see how it fits the guideline.

Specificity in request – when asking for a birthday shout-out, it’s best to provide instructions, include preferred details, and make sure to highlight salient points that align with social media platforms posting policies. Non-Googleable request – unlike just adding a generic post to your social media wishing someone a happy birthday, a shout-out is specifically for the person and often follows a set of established tenets and practices.

Short request – when it comes to asking for a favor like a shout-out, it’s important to keep the request as concise as possible. This way, the recipient can get back to you quickly with a yes or a no.

Similarly, when it comes to asking for an informational interview, specificity in your request is equally vital. Heres how to follow some of the guidelines:

Specificity in request – tailor the request to the individual you’re contacting, so they know you’re genuinely interested in their knowledge and experience.

For example, try to match your ask to the person’s particular role or function within the industry/economy

Non-Googleable request – avoid asking general questions that can be easily found on a website. Instead, show that you did some research and understand their background.

Aligning your request with recent news or projects the person has worked on can demonstrate that you’re up to speed. Short request – keep your initial request to under a few sentences that convey your purpose and demonstrate that you respect the other person’s time.

Ultimately, the success of any favor request comes down to how it is made. A well-thought-out, respectful, and concise request that follows these guidelines can increase the odds of receiving a yes from someone you admire or want to work with.

In conclusion, the key to asking for a favor that doesn’t rub the other person wrongly is to be specific, non-Googleable, and keep the request short. Remember to keep the other person’s needs and efforts in mind, and consider adding a thoughtful gift or paying for a meal if you’re able.

By following these guidelines, you can make a request that stands out as unique and person-oriented. Asking for favors is a common part of professional and personal relationships, but not all favors are created equal.

This article has explored the characteristics of good and bad favors, emphasizing the importance of being specific, avoiding Googleable questions, and keeping requests short. It also delved into the importance of being mindful of the other person’s schedule, offering to pay for them, and incorporating thoughtful gifts.

By following these guidelines and examples, professionals can enhance their favor-asking skills and build stronger connections. Remember, a well-crafted request shows respect for the other person’s time and effort, helping to create meaningful and lasting relationships.

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